Martha Heys was born Martha Hindle, daughter of Robert Hindle, who was an excise officer, and Sarah his wife. Sarah herself was the daughter of William and Martha Mercer. There is no record of the baptisms of either Martha or her brother Thomas in the parish registers of Great Harwood as it is highly likely that the family were Baptists; the baptisms of her cousins Jeffery Taylor and two of his sisters are also not listed and Jeffery himself had his first two children recorded in Baptist documents. There are no earlier surviving documents that may have recorded the births of the children of Robert Hindle and Sarah. Robert Hindle and Sarah married in 1772 and Sarah died in 1776 so Martha and Thomas would be born in the years between. Robert Hindle moved out of Great Harwood and married again, and it appears that Martha and her brother Thomas were brought up by their Mercer grandparents, along with her Taylor cousins, at the Mercer farm at Lower Fold in Great Harwood.
Not far from the Edge End tenement was Belmount, a farm created by enclosure and the home of John Heys and his family, who originally came from Oswaldtwistle. Martha Hindle married their son John Heys in 1791, her cousin Jeffery Taylor having married John’s sister Ann in 1788. It isn’t known where Martha and John Heys lived after they married; when their children were born the residence was just given as Harwood, but it is possible they lived at or near Belmount farm. Thomas was born in 1792, Susanna in 1793, Sarah in 1795 and Mary in 1797.
Tragedy struck the Heys family in 1798, firstly Martha’s husband John died in February that year, aged only 28, followed in March by their daughter Sarah and in May by John Heys senior. The following year in February it is recorded that the Widow Heays buried her daughter Mary, aged just fourteen months. The cause of death for any of the family isn’t known but typhus, measles and influenza were rife in these years. Martha was better placed than many other women in her position may have been in similar circumstances; John Heys senior had been a man of some substance and although the tenant at Belmount he had property in both Accrington and Blackburn and Thomas, Martha’s son, inherited some of these properties. Neither Thomas, nor his children, were mentioned in the will of John Heys senior, but the legacy left to Thomas was mentioned by him in his own will and had probably been settled upon him before the death of his father. Thomas did not survive his mother, he died in 1814, his last surviving sister Susanna having predeceased him in 1809, leaving Martha a childless widow.
In his will Thomas, who called himself a gentleman, left his mother Martha seven copyhold cottages at Lower Fold in Accrington Old Hold, inherited from his father. To his uncle Thomas Hindle, brother of Martha, he left the leasehold of two cottages and a small garden at ‘Hedge End’ in Great Harwood, occupied by his mother and a Lawrence Hindle. It seems that although built as one cottage very soon after it was built it was converted into two dwellings. The rest of his estate he left to his mother.
The family of Jeffery Taylor, cousin of John Heys, were closely associated with Belmount, Higher Edge End farm and the row of cottages at Edge End (also known as Clinkum) until the late 1800s and may have been why Martha decided to build her house in that area. Although the datestone over the cottage says it was built in 1807 it wasn’t until 1813 that the legal document recording her ownership was made.